Cleveland Indians vs Boston Red Sox 4/16 Progressive Field

It was a decent day with rain in the forecast, but still I was first in line here.

PNC Park

Wait a second… that’s not right. Now this is where I actually went.

Progressive Field

It was a last minute idea and I went with ballhawks Rick, Ian and Hunter. I was tempted by the fact that I still wanted a Red Sox commemorative and hoped that this trip would end that.

As it turned out we got into Cleveland just in time to get tickets. This however is not how to deal with a customer clearly not knowing their policy.

Me: ‘Could I please get a student ticket? I have my college I.D.’
Person behind the window: [reading slowly from a sheet] ‘Haven’t you read the sheet. This year to purchase student sections you have to go online to [insert site here] and buy them’.

What a jerk. Again, I clearly had no clue and people were already heading in. I had to spend the $12 I had for the cheapest ticket they had. Needless to say I was not pleased but I headed in and came up empty.

Obviously any Easter Eggs were gone so I went straight into snagging. There were not too many people there as the cold weather, threat of rain, weekday and general disinterest caused the low turnout [story of almost all of their season].

The Indians had more lefties than I remembered, and one hit one that got into a scrum between me and someone else. I came out on top for ball #1, and after a quick look tossed it to the kid.

Karma would come later when another lefty came up and would lift a fly ball that I tracked perfectly and caught in the glove. Pretty pleased to come up with ball #2 and I was ready for a good day.

BP clean catch

As this happened, the Red Sox pitchers were warming up. I was getting excited as this was my only shot. All of a sudden it started to drizzle. The Indians though continued to hit. Once they were done, though the grounds crew came out and put the tarp it. The rain stopped after 10 minutes and it never was more than a drizzle. I was frustrated to say the least, especially after I heard how the Pirates had a home run derby between Jose Tabata and Michael McKenry during BP. That would have been fun to be a part of. At least I got to see a game, the Pirates got rained out. Still no Red Sox BP hurt a lot. I was looking forward to it.

In addition, the main seating bowl did not open as early as it did on the Friday/Saturday time, so I had to wait it out in one area. That stunk.

I decided to go over to the Red Sox bullpen to check for commemoratives but the coaches had already come in there by the time I got there and I knew my chances were slim.

Felix Doubront was the starter for Boston at this game and David Ross started at catcher instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Ross is a former Pirate so that was kind of cool. Pedro Ciriaco also started at shortstop in this game. Pirates fan remember him for the frequent flier miles he got in 2011 traveling from place to place and never sticking anywhere.

Anyways, as Doubront was finishing up, he threw this weird curve that Ross could not handle. It bounced off his glove and out of the bullpen. It landed in my glove for ball #3. I inspected the ball and prayed for a commemorative but wound up disappointed. I asked if they wanted in back but Bullpen Coach Dana LeVangie said it was okay.

Felix Doubront

For those who do not notice the date of this entry, this was the day after the Boston bombings, another reason why I wanted to go to this game. I wanted to see how the Red Sox would do the day after such a tragic event. As always, the National Anthem was played and when it ended a firework went off. I have no idea if this is a tradition before every game in Cleveland, but in the moment it was in poor taste. The last thing the Red Sox needed to hear was another boom. Needless to say, I along with everyone in the Red Sox bullpen jumped.

After Doubront warmed up, I tried to get the attention of a Red Sox coach but it didn’t work and I left the area. I was not pleased.

I also really wanted to purchase an Indians media guide but I had no money. I love collecting media guides as well and I was unable to add this one to the collection.

Our seats were in the high up bleacher area of left field. This was how you knew you were there.

Left Field Bleachers

In that area is a seat dedicated to Indians fan John Adams. I am not talking about the second US president, but a fan that brings a drum to the game. He was running a bit late but I got this picture with him.

John Adams

As expected security was much tighter at this game. Want proof? Well here you go.

Cops

Ubaldo Jimenez started for the Indians and did not make it out of the second inning as the Red Sox scored seven runs winning 7-2. Ubaldo was booed off the mound.

It was Jackie Robinson Day and as the game ended Rick, Ian, Hunter and I all did speed pitch. Sadly our pitches were some of the fastest that day. Ian and I decided to pay tribute to Robbie [aka Scoonz] and wrote ‘Thank You Based God’ and ‘#SMTFO’ by our names.

We then tried to sneak over to see if the umpires had any commemorative baseballs for Jackie Robinson Day but couldn’t get there fast enough. It was unlikely anyways considering the umpire entrance and exit was protected.

The game itself was cold and boring. Ian decided to raise the roof to John Adams’ drum beats. You could tell I was bored since I was laughing like a school girl. Here is a video of the fun.

Indians people also tossed t-shirts and one of the guys threw a shirt that without a glove I made a leaping catch on. The guy was surprised. It was a generic XL Indians shirt but still it looked like a football route and a touchdown. I’ll take that.

After the game, we stayed for autographs and got Indians closer Chris Perez, second baseman Jason Kipnis as well as Bench Coach and former major leaguer Sandy Alomar Jr to sign.

BP clean catch

All in all it was a long day but still fun and worthwhile. I hope to be back sometime this season.

Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds 4/12 PNC Park

This would be my only game of this series as the next day I had a press pass to cover for a news outlet and I despise most Sunday games.

This game was a nightmare from the start. I finally decided to get my season tickets and I went through the glass doors at 3:15 desperately trying to call my season ticket representative that was not picking up. Finally at 4 he came down and it was nice to talk to him. Still I had to wait for all of my tickets to print and I knew it was going to be tough. I was not going to be able to throw or anything. The wait was endless.

Waiting for my season tickets felt like the great pumpkin.

Waiting for my season tickets felt like the great pumpkin.

Finally at 4:20 I got my tickets and BP was spared for me, but the effect was taken. I had no time to get in my zone and I knew it was going to be a rough day.

I would get on the board during the Pirates portion of BP. Gaby Sanchez came up and hit an arching shot. I had a good play on it as a couple fans in front played it incorrectly. It was fading from me though, and I knew I had one shot at it as people were running in on it. Without looking, I flung my glove which was on the bottom left to the top right guessing the location. It looked like a hockey goalie trying to make a save out of position. I was able to grab the ball for ball #1 on the day. A lot of people seemed impressed.

I then went over to Jason Grilli to get him to sign the baseball. That was my main mission as one of my college professors had promised to give me $20 for my charity initiative if I got a Pirate to sign his baseball. I came through and got to talk to ‘J Grills’

Jason Grilli signs autographs

Pirates BP and all of Reds BP were dead for me. I just never got into it.

I knew how to get ball #2 and I was right as Reds first base coach Billy Hatcher again hooked me up. This was huge as this would be baseball #450 for my ballhawking career.

Career baseball 450

Ball #3 came from the man Euclides Rojas and was the ball A.J. Burnett used to warm up.

Rojas toss up

A.J. Burnett warms up

The Pirates won this game 6-5 and would sweep the series against the NL Central favorite.

I would ballhawk four days later but based on the weather forecast went somewhere else. Where did I go and how did I do? You’ll have to read my next post.

Pirates vs Chicago Cubs 4/4 PNC Park

There was no BP and obviously being a day game the whole gate thing stunk again as I helplessly watched players warm up before the gates were set to open.

Fortunately pitchers were still throwing on the Pirates side and I floored it. Of course an overthrow came pretty quickly and Bullpen Coach and buddy Euclides Rojas was quick to hook me up for ball #1. Euclides seriously is the best.

That was it for the Pirates pitchers, but I did get a couple of nice pictures.

Posing with Jeanmar Gomez

Posing with Jeanmar Gomez

Here with Mark Melancon

Here with Mark Melancon

Cheese time

Cheese time

I took this game not so seriously as I wore a dressier shirt and jeans knowing there was no bp, but as I left an usher that I’ve been buddies with for a couple of season gave me ball #2.

I would get ball #3 from Euclides before the game in the usual spot as well. After that I hung out and waited for Scoonz who overslept so we could actually hang and enjoy the game.

The bottom of the ninth inning was a frustrating one as Carlos Marmol proved once again why he does not deserve to be in the majors, only to have the Pirates bailed him out. Even worse I perfectly predicted the Pedro Alvarez strikeout, Neil Walker double play combo that would end the game before it happened.

The Pirates had their troubles on the road too against the Los Angeles Dodgers before taking two of three against the Diamondbacks. What a terrible third game by the way.

Lastly, here is my BP session at the cages at PNC Park this past December. Unlike my last BP session, my swing was better. I had just studied for my law final too.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4II6nHcm4s

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e4d0wvTNd0

Pirates vs Chicago Cubs 4/3 PNC Park

 It finally was that time. A full batting practice and I was excited. I knew it was going to be cold outside but that would be fine. I was just hoping that it would all be worth it.

 I got to the game around 3:45 and stretched a bit ready to go after another 45 minutes in the gym a day after five hours. Despite too much time in the gym, I was feeling fresh and ready to go. Unfortunately, the throwing session did not last long as both balls were overthrown into the water and it was not my doing.

 I got into this game for free but still do not have a season ticket plan, so Ian Weir gets a shout out for getting me in.

 My running was fine although my speed was down a bit due to the gym.

 I have changed my strategy this year and will not hog the corner by the foul pole like I did last year. I think it makes my chances better and makes my range better.

 While it was cold, I was only one to start batting practice with just one shirt- a short sleeve shirt. I was not going to be affected by the weather and went short sleeves for both teams BP.

 There were no Easter Eggs but I saw a season ticket holder I talk to getting Mark Melancon’s autograph, so I wanted to see if I could get him to sign my glove. Instead a ball bounced on to the warning track and when I had his attention I asked him for it. Other ballhawks asked him for the toss up but he had already told me it was mine so I snagged ball number one. Thanks Mark!

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 The ball was not an opening day commemorative. The rumor was that they would be floating around during BP, but they never showed up.

 With that ball in my pocket, Russell Martin came up to the plate and he mashed a ball and it was going to be a scrum between myself and Nick. We both overplayed it, but my left hand just beat his glove for ball #2. I did tell Nick good hustle, he thanked me and we slapped gloves and moved on to the next snag.

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 Ball #3 came from a toss up from Jason Grilli, who says he is throwing up ‘one ball to all of us and then you’re on your own’. Hey I appreciated the help and shook his hand. When Scoonz and I just missed a homer, he asked us what happened. I told him, ‘two words: anorexic Jew’ and he was cracking up. In reality, I am up 18 pounds and in the best health of my life but I make fun of myself all of the time.

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 That was it for Pirates BP. I got nothing during Cubs BP because frankly it was the worst display I’ve ever seen. It was embarrassing. The fact this Pirates team lost twice to them is ridiculous.

 The Pirates would win today behind a great pitching effort from Wandy Rodriguez but my day was not over.

 Ballhawk Rick Sporcic joined me at the bullpen and as Wandy was throwing he told me that Rodriguez was using an Opening Day commemorative. When he was done, the man Euclides Rojas threw it up to me, but in a joking mood, Rick took a swipe at it. He had snagged two of them Monday at the opener.

 I knew that this was my only shot and Rick backed off after the joke. Euclides and Herbie Andrade took what felt like an eternity. I went to this game just to get this ball and finally I asked Euclides for the ball. It was the first time I had actually asked him for a ball since the middle of last season. The result was ball number 4. But was it comemorative? Let’s see.

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 Yeah baby! But something felt off. Oh wait, that’s better:

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 It was really cold at this point but I stayed because it was $1 hot dog night.

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I even had a cheering section.

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Scoonz, Ian, Rick and I all stuck together in section 140, and I just missed the fifth inning toss up from Andrew McCutchen as he pointed to me with his glove but of course under threw it by a considerable amount.

 The Pirates would win today and during the game, Scoonz and I decided to come back the next game with section 125 going for $6. There would be no BP on Thursday. How would I do? My next entry will let you know.

Pirates vs Chicago Cubs 4/1 PNC Park Opening Day

It was Opening Day and excitement was in the air, or was that snow? I’m still not quite sure.

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I actually have not purchased a season ticket plan, yet despite a sell out, I got into this game for free. I had to go to the Rivers Casino to get my ticket, but now that I’m 21, I was allowed to go in. Naturally, I gave in to the temptation and played some blackjack to get me into the Opening Day spirit and I doubled my money leaving with $80. Not a bad start.

 After some tailgating, I went into line and threw on the bridge. Then it was back into line where I started Dufnering, the pose modeled after something PGA Tour golfer Jason Dufner did in a community appearance at a school.

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 In case you could not tell, it was cold and it was snowing meaning no batting practice which stunk. Still I went in and did not find any Easter eggs which stunk but at least I got to pose with my buddy Randy Page better known as Big Yellow.

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 So with nothing to do, I went through the concourse area with Ian Weir and Scoonz and saw some cool things. Scoonz got four game balls in a grab bag which was cool to see. I was freezing at that point so we all recovered for a few minutes in the Pirates Clubhouse Store and then went separate ways.

 I went to the bullpen in hopes of salvaging the day when I finally saw my buddy, Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas. Euclides was great to me but we never got a chance to talk at the last game of the season because I came late, even when he left I never heard anything and I was concerned about how that would affect me this season.

 He seemed excited to see me though as we did our traditional wave. Ian had joined me at that point and Nick and Erik were trying to salvage their days so they were in the area as well.

 All of a sudden I heard ‘catch’ and I had this, ball number 1.

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 Take a wild guess who threw it up. If you guessed Rojas then you are right.

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 He also hooked up Ian during that time. Then I settled in to watch A.J. Burnett warm-up.

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 This also was my first chance to see Russell Martin.

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 While those two were warming up, I got a chance to catch up with Nick and also see Andrew McCutchen get his Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.

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 When Burnett was done though Rojas had two baseballs and he tossed one to Nick and another one to me for ball number 2. Thanks Euclides!

 As for the game, the Pirates offense laid an egg against starter Jeff Samardzija. Burnett had a nice outing however the two run homer he allowed to Anthony Rizzo is the one pitch he wants back.

 Still it was a cold day and I did leave after the seventh inning stretch, so I unfortunately was unable to see the Pirates score in the ninth inning but come back short.

 It was great to see so many familiar faces even though it was cold and the offense did not show up.

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 Not a bad day but there would be no baseball the next night and I would have to wait until Wednesday. Still I ended up doing five hours in the gym on my ‘day off’ in the hopes of snagging four baseballs on Wednesday to give me 445 snags on my career. You will have to read my next post to find out if I reached that goal and going an Opening Day Commemorative baseball, the ultimate goal of the series.

PNC Park Workout Day

 Yes like last year, I am counting the baseballs I snagged during workout day. PNC Park ballhawks count these and the rational is that other ballhawks in other cities do the same and Home Run Derby snags count as well so here goes nothing.

 It was a very cold day, and this was the first time I would see all of the PNC Park ballhawks.

 I was the first to arrive and while I had to enter a different gate it was great to be back home.

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 I gave myself plenty of time to stretch. It was a cold day, but as the other ballhawks learned as the Opening Series dragged on, I did not care what the temperature was, I was going to wear what I felt would help me move best. Thankfully Colston would come right before the gates opened, so I went with just this in the 30 degree weather.

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 Reaction went from ‘mad respect’ to my buddy Pirates reliever Chris Leroux who I got to talk to later who said ‘you’re going to get hypothermia’. He thought I was nuts, and I can’t blame him. For those who don’t see, I am wearing a long sleeve performance Under Armour shirt, while everyone else bundled up in coats and up to three layers.

 Eventually the ballhawks showed up and we all had our first official throwing session while dealing with the occasional rain drop. Even Colston joined in the session. My arm wasn’t great but my location was fine and more importantly I was not dropping the throws.

 When we went in I was trying to figure out what would be the best course of action. I saw Hector Rondon and Carlos Villanueva over on the first side and flanked by Erik Jabs and Robbie a.k.a. Scoonz we went over. Last year I was the first one to snag a ball thanks to Clint Hurdle but this year the honor went to Scoonz who just was closest to Villanueva. Villanueva was not responding to us. I figured the ball would go to Erik however Scoonz stuck his ground and I was jogging to the dugout in case it got that far. Oh well, glad to see Scoonz get on the board, he’s going to turn a lot of heads this year with a great snagging season.

 Don’t feel too bad for me though, I would get on the board 10 minutes later. Two random Cubs people [not players] were throwing and when they were done, the one coach threw me a curve ball that I caught for ball number one. The person that threw it is on the right of this picture.

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 After that I was unable to get any more baseballs from any of the Cubs relievers. I was able to talk to Cubs Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija, who would ultimately shut the Pirates down the next day. As a result, I got this.

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 First base coach Rick Sofield then did something I’ve never seen before. He took a bat and started hitting line drives as hard as he could off the wall and various angles to see what would happen. Apparently the players rolled their eyes, while the outfielders picked up the balls. When he came down to the first base line, I was honestly worried he would hit me. Then he decided to hit me one and I think to myself, I’ve got this and that I’d impress him by going barehanded. 

 He hits and I’m thinking ‘I’ve got this, no big deal’. Then when the ball was halfway there I had a bad feeling and missed it. To give you an idea of how hard he hit it, the ball deflected off my hand and flew back on to the field. Despite the hit and cold weather it didn’t hurt at all. For those asking, yes I should have gloved the ball but I was not thinking clearly. It was Workout Day for me too. Clearly I still needed to iron out some of the kinks.

 Sofield jokingly gave me a hard time and Coach Dave Jauss seemed to feel sorry for me and said to me, ‘lefty, here’s a ball’. Perfect, thanks Mr. Jauss for ball number 2.

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  After laughing that one off I waited for BP to start. I got in a great position and quickly two fouls balls were hit and I snagged them for balls 3 and 4. The fourth snag was in a scrum and when I went back to my spot, someone else took it, and that alone would cost me four baseballs. Cutting my losses, I switched to a different location.

 The move was to the third base side of foul territory and after a few minutes I quickly caught up with Leroux. We had a couple of conversations during the off-season. Chris told me he has really been working hard to get into the shape he was in before his injury last season. He is ready for this season and may surprise. 

 Regardless, he snagged a ball, saw me and made a goofy throw that I caught for ball number 5. Thanks Chris!

That would be all I got for Workout Day. It was great to experience the familiar sites, sounds, smells and even the people.

 Still, the time for sentimentality was over as the next day was Opening Day, something I still believe should be a national holiday. There would not be batting practice so how would I do? Make sure you read my next post to find out.

 

5th Annual Pirates Awards and 2013 season prediction

This is way late but here is a run down of award winners based on last season:

 MVP: Easily this goes to Andrew McCutchen. All the man did was lead the team, hit for some power, bat some guys in, nearly win the batting average race, get contract security, become even more involved in the community and finish third in MVP voting. Did I mention that the best is yet to come? A.J. Burnett finishes second.

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LVP: I would say Rod Barajas here just because the Pirates made a big investment in him and he failed in pretty much every area. Yes the guy was great for the clubhouse and created the Zoltan ‘Z’ that became the team’s theme, but he couldn’t hit a lick and struggled to throw out runners. 

Most Improved: I’ll give it to Pedro Alvarez. Everyone was questioning if he was the answer and he put up a nice 30 homer season. There still are questions because he is streaky, but a job well done in 2012 for Alvarez. James McDonald likely would have won this award had he shown up in the second half.

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Top Moment: As much as I’ve blasted the guy, it’s Rod Barajas hitting the walk-off home run against the Washington Nationals. I remember where I was sitting when that happened and I will admit that I booed him but that first pitch fastball by Henry Rodriguez is history and as I said above was the berth of the Zoltan ‘Z’.

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Lowest Moment: Tough call but I would say the Atlanta Braves series at the end of the year. The crowds packed PNC Park and this team looked capable of breaking the streak and the Braves series made it official; the streak would turn 20 years. It was just things piling up again and it was a hard pill to swallow for Pirates fans.

Best Mid-season Acquisition: I’ll give it to Wandy Rodriguez. Travis Snider had that great catch late in the season at Citi Field, but a hamstring injury hampered his power potential. To boot, Jose Tabata has come back and had a great spring meaning Snider’s leash may be shorter. Wandy’s strikeouts are down, but as the number two man in the rotation he will be that lefty in between A.J. Burnett and James McDonald. It helps that he is durable and went over 200 innings pitched last season.

Best broadcaster: I’ll give it to Tim Neverett. Good voice and sound for the game. Bob Walk is too goofy for me when I want just the facts, Greg Brown is too excited, John Wehner’s voice does not do it for me and Steve Blass is inconsistent for me. Oh and you can follow Neverett on Twitter @TimNeverett. Yes replacing Lanny Frattare is hard, but Neverett is holding his own.

Coaches of the Year: Well let’s see. Clint Hurdle lost the team for a second year in a row, Jeff Banister does not impress me much, Luis Silverio and Nick Leyva not great with base paths, Ray Searage had tired arms, Euclides Rojas coached a bullpen that collapsed in the second half and Mark Strittmatter coached a catching tandem that could not throw anyone out. So who does that leave? Bill Mazeroski and Bill Virdon, that’s who. They were 1-0 as coaches winning over the Twins before being forced to leave. That’s a winning record in my book. As for worst coach, it’s hard to pick just one.

 

 As for a season prediction it’s tough. I have this Pirates team finishing third but it will be tough. This team does not get to face the Astros 12 times a season with the switch to the AL, and they will have to find ways to get those wins. The Pirates have to take advantage early of the Cardinals and Brewers dealing with injuries. Yes this Pirates team has a lot of what ifs but I do think an 80-82 season is possible and ultimately what will happen.